Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Indoor Air: Heading for Regulation?

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Indoor Air: Heading for Regulation?

Article excerpt

Although both federal regulators and safety experts are cautious about trying to develop standards for indoor air pollution, legislators in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate are intent on taking a stab at addressing the problem.

At press time, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works had approved its version of the Indoor Air Act of 1991, sending it on for a vote by the full Senate. The bill, titled S. 455, is basically the same as S. 657, a piece of indoor air legislation that passed the Senate last year.

The House version of the indoor air bill, titled H.R. 1066, has traveled a rockier road than its Senate counterpart. In August, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee said the bill needed better language and further research, and sent it back to the Subcommittee on Environment for further consideration.

The bills differ widely in their approaches to curtailing indoor air problems. The Senate version, authored by Sen. George Mitchell (D, Maine), calls for NIOSH, EPA, and the General Services Administration to work together on indoor air contamination training programs, with EPA also conducting a program that would examine the effectiveness of existing ventilation standards and guidelines. Additionally, the bill would require EPA to make recommendations to Congress for indoor air pollution reduction programs in schools and day care centers.

The House bill, authored by Rep. Joseph Kennedy 11 (D, Mass.), calls for $53.5 million to be spent on research and regulation of indoor air problems at state and federal levels. It also would require federally mandated regulation that would set standards for ventilation and require labeling for products that are known to emit chemicals through the process of off-gassing. The call for regulation is largely what got the bill sent back to subcommittee. Several members of the science committee argued that current research on indoor air pollution is too inconclusive to warrant regulation at this point.

The call for regulation in H.R. 1066 is also being met with apprehension by key members of the industrial hygiene community. Robert Sheriff, president of the American Industrial Hygiene Assn. (AIHA), told Occupational Hazards that, in the case of labelling products in accordance with their off-gassing potential, regulation would not be in accordance with a "good scientific approach" to solving the problem. …

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